After months of development, a San Diego State student converted his backyard swimming pool into a garden pool in order to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle.
On Tuesday, social science student and aspiring entrepreneur Travis Wennen received a visit from SDSU’s Center for Regional Sustainability Coordinator Mariah Hudson and SDSU geography lecturer Diana Richardson,so they could see his newly converted garden pool after months of development.
After taking a U.S. geography course last semester, Wennen brought his geography urban agricultural project to life within three months of planning. Embracing the idea of sustainability, Wennen converted his backyard swimming pool into a garden pool, also known as a “fishpond” or aquaponics system, which combines aquaculture (fish) and hydroponics (soilless cultivation). In his garden pool, Wennen added three turtles and 26 fish including tilapia, koi, minnow and goldfish. One of the ways Wennen takes care of his fishpond is by ensuring his fish eat an organic diet of algae, roots from pond plants, duckweed and, occasional pellets as a treat.
Richardson, Wennen’s geography professor last spring, said she was delighted to hear back from Wennen, when she learned he followed through with his geography project to create his own aquaponics system.
“I was so excited. He told me he was going to build this, so I asked him to keep me in the loop and he did,” Richardson said. “He shot me an email telling me that he had finished the project, so I was thrilled that he carried this idea forward.”
Richardson continued to explain the work and sacrifice Wennen endured in completing this project.
“He made this extraordinary effort to work with his family and his resources. He had to cut back on eating well for a while and ate lots of peanut butter in order to fund the project,” Richardson said. “He really spent a lot of time and money and resources to do this and I’m just really proud of him for carrying this idea forward and really making it work.”
Wennen invested roughly $2,500 into funding his garden pool, whereas maintaining a swimming pool can cost about $200 per month. His garden pool is surrounded by a 14-milliliter reinforced UV plastic sheet, which helps shade his turtles and fish, in addition to regulating the water temperature and blocking out UV rays. Every month, Wennen maintains the garden pool by changing 20 to 30 percent of the water to ensure it’s sustainable enough for his fish and turtles.
Wennen explained why he felt the need to create this sustainable project.
“I think it’s really crucial to know where your food comes from, and to even go further in producing your own food,” Wennen said. “Being self-sufficient is an even more important concept now that the prices of food are rising and genetically modified foods are becoming so popular. Organic farming and doing it for yourself is really becoming more important than it was before.”
Once Wennen’s fish develop and grow, he plans to eat them with his family and friends. He mentioned his mother didn’t initially agree with his plan, claiming it would
bring down the value of the house. But, with support from his father, Wennen’s mother is adjusting to the new garden pool.
Hudson said she was overjoyed when she saw Wennen’s garden pool, and offered some thoughts for families in San Diego.
“It’s fantastic seeing a concept go into practice. From what I see here, families across San Diego can replicate this. This is fantastic,” Hudson said.
In the future, Wennen hopes to inspire others and eventually become an entrepreneur for sustainability. In addition to building a garden pool, Wennen also built a chicken coop and has three chickens ready to lay eggs.
“I was excited that a student would get excited about the ideas of sustainability and implement them into his life and even eventually make a career out of it,” Richardson said.